olmert china 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday he was surprised and encouraged by talks with Chinese leaders who told him they were strongly opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons.
Olmert met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who hailed the trip as "a very important, facilitating role in enhancing the growth of the China-Israel relationship."
The three-day visit, which ended Thursday, marked the 15-year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two sides, whose ties have been strained by occasional political and trade tensions.
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Olmert said that his meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday was "surprising and encouraging."
"I heard things that were surprising - surprisingly positive and unexpected," Olmert told journalists traveling with him on a three-day trip to China. "We discussed the subject of Iran at great length and I raised all the issues."
Olmert's Beijing trip came a week after China hosted Iran's chief nuclear envoy Ali Larijani, who rejected criticism of his nation's atomic program.
China backed a United Nations Security Council Resolution passed on December 23 imposing sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.
Wen and Olmert held 90 minutes of talks at Beijing's Great Hall of the People that touched on both the Iran sanctions and China's taking on a greater role in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Olmert said.
They also presided over the signing of trade and cultural agreements before sitting down to an official dinner hosted by Wen in one of the gilded halls of China's legislature.
Wen greeted Olmert by referring to his late parents, who fled to China more than 80 years ago from anti-Semitic persecution in Czarist Russia. They moved to Israel in 1933, 12 years before his birth, the prime minister said.
"Given the historical linkage of your family with China, it is fair to say that this time you are visiting this country not only as a distinguished guest but also as a good friend and relative of China," Wen said.
Sitting across from Wen at an oval table after a military band played "Hatikva," Olmert said that he was honored to be in Beijing to mark 15 years since China established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
"China is a world power and it is very important for the state of Israel to have good, friendly, extensive relations with this power," he said.